On Tuesday evening, Liu Xiaoyuan, who has acted as a lawyer for family of Yang Jia, announced on his blog that Yang will be executed within a week. Yang Jia’s mother told him that around 7pm, she was visited two officials from the Shanghai Higher People’s Court who notified her that the Supreme People’s Court had approved the death sentence for her son. According to the Criminal Procedure Law, the sentence must be carried out within seven days of that final approval.
One of the strangest things about this case has been the number of people who have supported Yang Jia. You could almost think he was a campaigner for social justice who had been framed, rather than a man who murdered six police officers and wounded three others and a security guard. (For anyone not familiar with the case, see the Washington Post for an overview up to the middle of November)
You have a serious PR problem when so many people support a police-killer rather than the police. But from start to finish, the police and the courts have demonstrated why they are disliked so much.
The stage was set two years ago when Yang, from Beijing, was allegedly beaten by police in Taiyuan station in Shanxi province. Then, last year, police in Zhabei district, Shanghai arrested him on suspicion of stealing a bicycle that he rented. At the police station, Yang said several police officers dragged him into a room where they punched and kicked him for two to three minutes.
Yang Jia’s first trial was held in closed session, but during his appeal trial, the prosecution presented a recording of Yang Jia inside the police station. The recording contained no beating and Yang Jia could provide no evidence that any such beating had occurred.
However, the tape also showed Yang Jia was indeed dragged into another room by police officers and the police failed to produce any recording of what took place there. Yang Jia could hardly produce a tape of what happened in that room - that was the responsibility of the police. And it’s hardly surprising that Yang Jia could show no physical injuries a year after the alleged beating took place.
There was also the issue of Yang Jia’s sanity. He was pronounced sane and capable of standing trial, but his lawyers’ appeals for a second opinion were denied.
And then there were the lawyers themselves. When Yang Jia’s father tried to hire a lawyer to defend his son, the authorities refused, saying they had already appointed one to represent him. That lawyer just happened to have close ties to the very police station where Yang Jia went on the rampage - suggesting a strong conflict of interest.
It got worse. Yang Jia’s mother, Wang Jingmei, had signed a document approving this lawyer for her son. But Wang Jingmei had disappeared without trace in Beijing immediately after the killings in Shanghai. Where was she? How did the police find her to get this signature if her family had no idea where she was?
The answer to that came on November 9 when Wang Jingmei’s sister, Wang Jingrong, discovered she was being held for compulsory psychiatric treatment in the Ankang Hospital administered by the Beijing Public Security Bureau. She had been sent there the day after her son’s crime in Shanghai.
If Wang Jingmei required compulsory psychiatric treatment, how could she possibly be competent to sign a power of attorney that would decide who would represent her son.
This news was announced on November 10 by the lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan. The next day it was the subject of a full-page set of articles in the Southern Metropolis News.
For four whole months, the Beijing police knew perfectly well where Wang Jingmei was, but they failed to inform her family. She had been effectively “disappeared.”
If she was mad, then was this hereditary and could it have been passed on to her son? If she wasn’t, why was she committed to a psychiatric hospital? And why did this illness suddenly require treatment immediately after her son was arrested? Many people felt that this new information justified a reopening of the case. It seems the Supreme People’s Court disagrees.
The Yang Jia case also tested the Regulations on Open Government Information which went into effect in May this year. In October, the lawyer Hao Jingsong filed a series of applications for information from the Taiyuan railway police, the Shanghai police and the Zhabei district police. The information he wanted included the 2006 incident at Taiyuan station, the whereabouts of Yang’s mother and the contents of the tapes recorded during Yang’s detention in Shanghai last October.
On November 11, he received the following replies, all of them rejections, saying his requests did not fall within the scope of the regulations: